We consider the problem of balancing two competing objectives in the pursuit of efficient management of operating rooms in a hospital: providing surgeons with predictable, reliable access to the operating room and maintaining high utilization of capacity. The common solution to the first problem (in practice) is to grant exclusive “block time,” in which a portion of the week in an operating room is designated to a particular surgeon, barring other surgeons from using this room/time. As a major improvement over this existing approach, we model the possibility of “shared” block time, which need only satisfy capacity constraints in expectation. We reduce the computational difficulty of the resulting NP-hard block-scheduling problem by implementing a column-generation approach and demonstrate the efficacy of this technique using simulation, calibrated to a real hospital’s historical data and objectives. Our simulations illustrate substantial benefits to hospitals under a variety of circumstances and demonstrate the advantages of our new approach relative to a benchmark method taken from the recent literature.

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2012 INFORMS. This article first appeared in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management 14, no. 4 (June 27, 2012): 567-83. doi:10.1287/msom.1110.0372.

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